Jessica Culpepper (Public Justice), Larry Baldwin (Crystal Coast Waterkeeper), Matt Helper (Appalachian Voices), Michael Krochta (Bark).
Jessica – there can be a disconnect between the work on the ground and how it is used in advocacy. On how to use the information to make the world a better place, and hold polluters to account.
First, Michael Krochta (Bark) from Portland, OR – NGO focusing on restoring forests about Mt Hood. Doing volunteer surveys. They carry out ground truth by volunteers to inform management but also litigation in case of logging – a project about an old growth forest that was suggested, but volunteers identify rare species habitat which stopped the logging. The Mt Hood provide drinking water, but also an area of commercial logging activities. There are programmes of logging from the forestry service – an area is going through EIA according to NEPA, and if it is suitable, it is auctioned off. The national forest management act requires them to have a forest management plan, especially concerns over spotted owl from the 1970s. At each time, there is a large area that is being analysed for exploitation, and they don’t analyse it well enough. The ground truthing is to train volunteers are checking the information and demonstrating, for example, that an area that is the map indicated as only 30-year growth is actually an old growth one. Ground truthing include taking images, checking a diameter of a tree, and assessing the canopy cover. The forest service (USFS) have limitations and they do very simplistic analysis and apply an analysis of a small area over a large area – e.g. an area of 11,742 acres that through an effort by the NGO they dropped 1531 by demonstrating that aspect and slope are greater than 30%. There is a requirement to use more complex equipment.
The forest service is describing “desired future conditions” and demonstrating that the conditions are already there. Another evidence is “survey and manage” – the forest service require to survey and manage trees that are over 80 years old. There is an example of the Red Tree Voles (which the Spotted Owl) and because it’s hard to find the next of the voles, they don’t climb trees – once people are trained to climb Douglas Fir, they can collect evidence – the forest service is doing only ground-based surveys. A detailed map of the area helps in removing places that are within a radius from identified nests. There are also protected plant species that they identified by volunteers. Existing legal hook – National Forest Management Act on land allocation and current ecological conditions, NEPA in terms of baseline conditions and cumulative impacts, Endangered Species Act, “Survey and manage” from Northwest Forest Plan. bark-out.org
Matt Hepler – Appalachian Voices – part of Appalachian Citizens Enforcement alliance, is doing engagement with people about the Clean Water Act to monitor their watershed and bringing local knowledge to the front. People feel disempowered and don’t interact with state agencies – gave up hope or don’t know how. Holding state agencies and coal companies accountable. The sites that they are researching are hot spot – word of mouth on local knowledge, use of Google Maps and Google Earth and also use QGIS, and they look at Discharge Monitoring Reports – the mines are supposed to produce DMRs for each stream, and these can be examined and can also grab location so they can carry out their own analysis. Spending as much time analysing the maps to decide where to take samples as much as doing in the fields. Mapping is important – but not every community members are not good with computers or explaining how to use GPS and coordinates. The maps are important for not trespassing so to find places that it is possible to properly sample. There can be intervening sources that can impact the sampling site. They are using equipment in a library – using a pH buffer bottle, using instruments and people monitor pH, temperature, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and Conductivity. If there is low pH or high conductivity they do further tests for heavy metals and sulfates and lab methods. It’s important to have QA – training on how to calibrate, how to not trespass and upload the data. There is limited editing access for data so it can be controlled. Calibration of probes before landing them. Using Virginia Tier II water quality data standards – checking that it’s good enough for state-level monitoring and evidence. There is also polaroid justice – provide photographic evidence for the work that they do so it can be submitted “Polaroid Justice”. They have a website http://www.act-project.org and now considering replacing it with smartphones with EpiCollect and ArcGIS Online, as it allows offline data collection. ArcGIS online can pull data from the EPA, state agencies and other sources and that are useful. Some successes – in specific streams (Kelly Branch and Penn Virginia) for illegal discharge of selenium and that led to Supplemental Environmental Project that bring money to remedy, reporting water quality violations, also found abandoned mines locations, and increased knowledge and awareness. Data have been used by academics who are interested in water quality in Appalachia.
Larry Baldwin – talking from multiple organisations that he involved in: crystal coast waterkeeper and coastal Carolina riverkeeper. The issue is Coal Ash and CAFO – the residue for coal that is used in power plants, and CAFO is concentrated Animal Feeding Operations from pork and poultry (turkey and chicken) because of industrial farming. They got information from a farmer about coal ash spill in the Dan River and took to the air, showing a spill from coal and CAFO sources. They had volunteers who recognise the discharge and people took photos for weeks. There are quite a few sites like that. The issue with CAFO that come from factory farms that got a “lagoon” which is a cesspit – a hole in the ground that include the sewage from the swine and then sprayed on the ground as a “fertilisers”. There are issues of discharge from CAFO – you find it out from neighbours who are checking the information, Trespassing is an issue, and they allow the organisation to go and sample. There are big mountains of poultry waste – with nitrate, bacteria and all sort of other things in it. There are 2400 swine “lagoon” mostly near low-income communities and black and Hispanic communities. So they provided tools to allow communities members to collect evidence from aerial monitoring with volunteer pilots – who have their own aeroplane who are willing to fly over the property, with attempts not to allow flying a drone over a facility because that is not allowed by law. After hurricane Florence, when it hit on Saturday, they flew for 8 days, to document the impact of the storm. Used a sign on the board of the local airport and recruiting pilots this way (covering the fuels). Also doing campaigns which get people involved – including billboards. The industry got upset about the billboards that they put their own campaign. Use an innovative way to engage people – they pay for themselves in terms of participation. Going to lawsuits only as last options – using clean air act or legislative actions to campaign and change things. Lobbying, campaigning, the court of public opinion is also important – using the information from volunteers to put it in front of the public, conventional media (print/radio/TV), documentaries – bringing people from Russia, China and other countries to avoid the problem in their own country, and finally social media. Training people to take samples and teaching people to use equipment to prove the point in a specific issue. If it is not part of the volunteers who step up to be part of the solution.
Jessica Culpepper – Public Justice is a national advocacy organisation and they have lawyers and been doing it for 7 years. There are environmental lawsuits that are based on citizen science and it is important to use it in these cases. There are also gag laws that are being put even to block access to public land (the Wyoming law). These laws are there to stop citizen scientists to identify problems. Public justice is to identify the problems in the energy and agricultural sector – coal ash, water. The Food Project try to support dismantling industrial agriculture towards a regenerative form of animal agriculture. Believe in deep partnership with communities and representing farmers, rural communities, consumers, and workers. Focusing on communities that don’t have clean water because of nitrates. Poultry has issues of working rights and other issues. The Burton et al v Mountaire Poultry – in a Milsbrough they experience water pollution that a community of colour was exposed to without knowing. There is row poultry waste sprayed on the field, and when the incident happened, the environment agency sample 11 wells and just sent water softener without explanation how it will help the situation. A group at the Sussex County Del. , with a group keep our wells safe, and explain to community members that their water is not space, and stepping up is very scary – losing a job, excluded from a local church, children being bullied etc. There is a disposal field not far away from the community. There was a child who died from asthma, limb loss for diabetic patients – all associate from nitrate. They start by community well sampling project -and went door to door to do onsite nitrate and discovered that a lot of wells are contaminated. Used Google Earth to map Nitrate and also got evidence through freedom of information. As a lawyer, she can demonstrate that it is a facility that can be blamed It is possible to demonstrate the link – without citizen science and community science that enabled data collection. They also show that the trend is going up since the farm happened. The chart was created by one of the citizen scientists in the community. The data enabled to collaboratively create a groundwater flow map through a hydrogeologist – and they could prove that could bring a lawsuit on behalf the community – and there was a question of what they want to get out of it. They also did media blitz in USA Today and asked why senators don’t show up in the communities, and that influenced the advocacy – it led to the America Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 to get a grant to monitor and if the polluter is identified, they need to cover the costs – that despite the link between Tom Carper link to Poultry industry in Delaware. You need a positive vision, show up and document, willingness to be out in the media by the community, work with a wider network – work of citizen scientists is amazing. Burnout is real, and you need to work with different groups – an effort by communities and fighting for 25-30 years, and there is a personal price that they pay, with threatening family members.
The session was opened by Na’Taki Osborne-Jelks, Agnes Scott College (CSA board) – the environmental justice movement have used methods of community science we need to include in the tent of citizen science. There are 60 participants in the conference that are supported by the NSF to participate in the conference. There was a special effort to ensure that Environmental Justice is represented in the conference.
Ellen McCallie (NSF), which provided a grant to support EJ activists to join the conference, noted that the NSF Includes got a specific focus on those that are under-represented in STEM and that are underserved by NSF projects. There are about 150 projects by NSF that include citizen science and crowdsourcing, and all of them push boundaries in knowledge or help people to learn about science.
The panel was moderated by Sacoby M. Wilson, Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health (CEEJH), University of Maryland-College Park. The chair set three questions:
First question: how you got into citizen science/community science?
Second question: what were some successes?
Third question: what your message to the CSA?
Viola “Vi” Waghiyi, Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), St. Lawrence Island, Alaska.
Located in the north Baring Sea, shes have 4 boys and the community. They are close to Siberia, and the Air Force established two bases in the Cold War. The people in the area continue to leave in the land and they wanted to keep the way of life and not separate themselves from the land and sea. It’s an Island the size of Puerto Rico, but TB, starvation and other impact reduce them to 1500 people. The bases established at each end and stay there from 1940 to 1970, and the contamination impacted cancer and health defect. They were ignored about the impacts and pleaded to help. An executive who was a scientist and they started a community based participatory research and they know that they have a higher PCB and one of the most contaminated community because they rely on traditional food – chemical releases end in their environment without chemical factories. They have a crisis in their community. She took a position to learn about chemicals and the impact on her people and been doing it for 17 years – taking samples, doing research, train local people.
Success – the institutional barriers that a small non-profit has challenges in addressing the PCB and the state is pro=developement of energy sources. So the state agencies don’t look after marginalised communities. There are also issues of funding, with a refusal of funding as their expertise are not valuable. The success – there are so many chemicals that are being created and all that impact you and your body. Companies that don’t take human health into account. The indigenous group is part of the human right convention and trained to use their voice to influence the process – work at the international level helps everyone.
Traditional knowledge, song, dances, creation stories, and we need to have sound data that scientists need to use to help communities in health and disparities.
Thank you Vi Waghiyi for reminding us all “toxic chemicals know no boundaries”. The impact of #citizenscience goes beyond the lines society has drawn for us. #CitSci2019
Margaret L Gordon, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Oakland, CA – dealing with dirty diesel project. Connected her community to improve the air near the port for over 25 years
How got to the field? Got involved in citizen science because she got tired of the state agencies and local agencies and lack of response. The organise to demonstrate that the city, the county, to EPA to demonstrate that they can collect information and measure their own air quality. They started in 2008 in Oakland and Berkeley, and researcher came to them. They started to use dust measurement, and a community measurement technician and really understood how to use the equipment and keep it accurate.
Success – part of creating an equitable solution, and problem-solving mechanisms to solve the issues. An understanding of problem-solving and bring people from the city, but need an equitable process and she was also the board of the port of Oakland and that was useful to address issues. Some people in citizen science, who didn’t learn how to be community engaged should not come to communities – they had to teach researchers how to work with them, and there are also issues with universities who want to collaborate and don’t share funding with community organisations. Relationship of trust and good communication can work.
We need cumulative impacts that need to be carried out in impacted communities and there is not enough academic research in the communities that are exposed to pollution. Better impact science.
Question about Climate change: we need to talk about Climate justice, and that need to be discussed about the impact on poor communities to deal with floods, and other impacts.
Ms. Margaret Gordon speaks the truth: some people in this room (and outside the room) should not go work with community. If you don't have training, skill sets, real equity in processes…don't come to the 'hood. #CitSci2019
Thank you Ms. Margaret Gordon for calling out: we are asking the same questions, pointing to same issues relating to community capacity, equity, diversity in 2019 as we were in 1992. #RealProgress#RealChange#CitSci2019
Omega R. Wilson, West End Revitalization Association (WERA), Mebane, NC – doing a Community Owned and Managed Research – the gold standard for community science.
EJ movement and activity started 70 years ago (he is 69), before they were bord – it was passed from their mothers. Issues of toxic free soil, good water, good air – there is a continuum. Moved after university to the Mississippi and in NC develop a new understanding of EJ issues and with the support of NIH helped to develop research in the area of North Carolina.
Successes – community groups deserve recognition in books and publications. There were intimidations of family members of activists by state officials. The use of the law is a way to get things working and to achieve.
The Citizen Science Association should be about dealing with problems, not just studying them. Push universities to actually fund pollutants use – the CSA should encourage growing education of Hispanic, Black and Indigenous groups education in science. The association need to support where there are getting the resources. Science for people, as science for action.
The issues are about terminology and changing citizen science and use community-based science and community-based research: everyone has a right to clean water.
How much research funding is given to #HBCUs, tribal colleges? Omega Wilson asks for more direct investment in STEM/health researchers trained and funded from impacted communities (not funneled through predominantly white institutions). #CitSci2019
Vincent Martin, Community Organizer Against Petroleum Refineries, Detroit, MI – push issues of air quality around Detroit and active at the national level. Got his company to assist the community with EJ issues.
The basic right for air, water, and climate change will get worse in poor communities. His community got coals, roads and highways, and a lot of hazardous material is released to their community. When they started all the “white crosses” on a map of each person that died from an environmental related disease was unbearable and they had to stop. Experienced that with a brother who died from that impact. There was a proposal to bring Tar Sands for processing to their area, and the pointed that the zoning laws are incorect, and that was ignored – but then when the authorities check, they show that this was correct but the city authorities approved the expansion. Started to learn about toxics and about issues and how communities are being treated in such a situation. The community need to provide oversight and “hey, we don’t want that” and get some transparency and equity.
Vincent Martin: What is 24 hour exposure to pollutants doing to our bodies, to our babies? We need more cumulative impact studies. #CitSci2019#EnvironmentalJustice
Beverly Wright, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and Dillard University, New Orleans, LA – influenced at national policy and influenced EJ issues nationally.
Got her PhD in Buffalo, as a sociologist working with the trauma of the love canal and the impact on the community. In the Missisipy Industrial Corridor they could see the chemical impact on the community and while people could see the evidence on fish, insect, and because there was only one chemical at the time, they couldn’t show link. In a community that she worked with, they took their own sample. Fell into citizen science through “we don’t trust you” and recruited toxicologist, and set out environmental sociology to work with a community. They create the first GIS map that shows the spatial distribution by race and income to TRI facilities and there were clusters of black communities.
Success – one of the only PhDs that are not being kicked out of community meetings. They made a community university model in 1992 and they use that model for a Community University Partnership by the EPA. Louisiana there were issues of working with communities – most environmental organisations that are typical (white, middle class – Big Green) bring students from the outside who then go away and don’t leave anything behind. So brought researchers to teach communities how to use the processes and collect data – and that is the creation of the Bucket Brigade. The White Crosses were used to demonstrate strange cancer rates in the chemical corridors. It took 18 years to win a case, but with the effort of the bucket brigade effort and capturing white steam that goes through the community and it was sent to EPA. Once it was captured, the EPA change the approach and organise the community in Diamond Plantation who got funding for relocation.
The level of pollution that is allowed by EPA – permits are set by the first company that was allowed to pollute, and the licences are about poisoning people, in effect.
Science not leading to action – most of the time. Need political science: science and advocacy.
There is an internalised racism and that is real and black people who are working for everybody, and there is an issue that someone is speaking for them. The black people are the only group that was enslaved by this country and that is persistent even in EJ, and other ethnic groups are not supporting black group – e.g. Latinos, Native American etc. It is an issue of racism that carried over to other minorities group. But black people learned to stand for themselves.
Climate change: the EJ movement pushing that the Green New Deal includes justice element and equity, and not to allow carbon trading that will leave pollution to poor communities. Need to think about how to have a just transition to a green economy. That is an effort towards the election of 2020.
#CitSci2019: “Every environmental problem comes back to racism. That some of us are believed and valued less. Pollutants, zoning…”
The #AirQuality standards set originally by EPA were NOT based on health effects on people but based on the lowest levels that were possible to be emitted by industries to make a profit. Powerful insights from those who have worked with EPA regulations over 30 yrs #CitSci2019pic.twitter.com/I4GzpbCvH6
Carmen Velez Vega, PhD, MSW, Tenured Full Professor, University of Puerto Rico – Medical Sciences Campus – addressing public health issues, and involved in the recovery of Porto Rico after Hurrican Maria.
Became involved in EJ because before that she was activists in the LGBT: e.g. the same-sex adoption, and that experience opens up other experiences. Puerto Rico is an Environmental Injustice Island – one phenomenon is the same people fighting on everything. As a social worker started to learn and in the school of public health. She was involved in a project that was funded by the NIH and looked at someone to do community engagement with a known researcher, and use the text of Phil Brown and through that, she was exposed to the risk that women in reproductive age are exposed to. There is an issue of contaminated water and toxic products. She learned that not all women are exposed equally – the more poor and brown you are, the more exposed you are. After Hurricane Maria, they were abandoned by the authorities and that added to the injustice. The injustices would not disappear.
The CSA should promote policies that push towards environmental justice and impact at a larger scale. Promoting young people and leaders in the area of environmental justice. Need to work with the communities.
However, if you are not familiar with large-scale environmental management, where it is widely used since the mid-1990s, you’re not expected to know about it. It got its critics, but continue to be considered as an important policy tool. DPSIR start by thinking about driving forces – trends or mega-trends that are influencing the ecosystem that you’re looking at. The drivers lead to specific pressures, for example, pollution or habitat fragmentation. To understand the pressures, we need to monitor and understand the state of the system – this is lots of time where citizen science and sensing data are used. Next, we can understand the potential impacts and then think of policy responses. So far, hopefully clear? You can read more about DPSIR here.
I haven’t come across the use of DPSIR outside the environmental area (but maybe there is?). However, as I was thinking about it, as we prepared for the meeting, I suggested that we give it a go as a way to consider strategic actions and work for ECSA. It turns out that DPSIR is a very good tool for organisational development! It allowed us to have a 20 minutes session in which we could think about external trends, and then translate them into a concrete action. Here is an example (made up, of course, I can’t disclose details from a facilitated meeting…). I’m marking positive things, from the point of view of the organisation, as (+) and negative as (-).
Let’s think of a citizen science coordination society (CitScCoSo). in terms of drivers, an example will be “increase recognition of citizen science”, as Google Trends chart shows. Next, there are the pressures which include (-) the growth in other organisations that are dedicated to citizen science and compete with CitScCoSo, which mean that it will need to work harder to maintain its position, (+) increase in requests to participate in activities, projects, meetings, talks etc which will create opportunity to raise profile and recognition. CitScCoSo current state can be that the organisation is funded for 5 more years and have a little spare capacity for other activities. The impacts can be (+) more opportunities for research funding and collaborations or, (-) demand for more office space for CitScCoSo (-) lack of IT infrastructure for internal organisational processes. Finally, all this analysis can help CitScCoSo in response – securing funding for more employees or a plan for growth.
When you do that on a flipchart with 5 columns for the DPSIR element, it becomes a rapid and creative process for people to work through.
As I pointed, a short exercise with ECSA board showed that this can work, and I hope that the outcomes are helpful to the organisation. I will be interested to hear if anyone else know of alternative applications of DPSIR…
The book is structured around short chapters of about eight pages, with colour images that illustrate the topic of the chapter. This make the book very accessible – and suitable for reading while commuting in a city. The chapters take you for a tour around many places in the world: from London, Berlin, Bangalore, to Johannesburg, Mexico City and to small towns in Pennsylvania and Lancashire (and few other places). It also explores multiple scales – from participation in global negotiations about urban policy in the UN, to the way immigrants negotiate a small area in central Dublin, as well as discussion of master-planning in several places, including London and Mexico City.
The book demonstrate the multi-faceted aspects of participation: from political power, to gender, environmental justice, indigenous rights, skills, expertise and the use of scientific information for decision making. Each of the chapters provides a concrete example for the participatory issue that it covers, and by so doing, make the concept that is being addressed easy to understand.
Not surprisingly, many of the success stories in the book’s chapters are minor, temporary and contingent on a set of conditions that allow them to happen. Together, the chapters demonstrate that participation, and the demand for representation and rights to the city are not futile effort but that it is possible to change things.
With a price tag that is reasonable, though not cheap (€28, about £21), this is highly recommended book that charts the aspects of urban participation in the early part of the 21st century, and especially demonstrating the challenges for meaningful participation in the face of technological developments, social and economic inequalities, and governance approaches that emphasise markets over other values.
My contribution to the book is titled ‘Making Participatory Sensing Meaningful‘ and I’m examining how the concept of participatory sensing mutated over the years to mean any form of crowdsourced sensing. I then look at our experience in participatory sensing in Heathrow to suggest what are the conditions that enable participatory sensing that is matching the expectations from participatory processes, as well as the limitations and challenges. You can find the paper here and the proper citation for it is:
Haklay, M., 2016, Making Participatory Sensing Meaningful, in Beebeejaun, Y. (Ed.) The Participatory City, Jovis, pp. 154-161.
My contribution to the discussion is based on previous thoughts on environmental information and public use of it. Inherently, I see the relationships between environmental decision-making, information, and information systems as something that need to be examined through the prism of the long history that linked them. This way we can make sense of the current trends. This three area are deeply linked throughout the history of the modern environmental movement since the 1960s (hence the Apollo 8 earth image at the beginning), and the Christmas message from the team with the reference to Genesis (see below) helped in making the message stronger .
To demonstrate the way this triplet evolved, I’m using texts from official documents – Stockholm 1972 declaration, Rio 1992 Agenda 21, etc. They are fairly consistent in their belief in the power of information systems in solving environmental challenges. The core aspects of environmental technophilia are summarised in slide 10.
This leads to environmental democracy principles (slide 11) and the assumptions behind them (slide 12). While information is open, it doesn’t mean that it’s useful or accessible to members of the public. This was true when raw air monitoring observations were released as open data in 1997 (before anyone knew the term), and although we have better tools (e.g. Google Earth) there are consistent challenges in making information meaningful – what do you do with Environment Agency DSM if you don’t know what it is or how to use a GIS? How do you interpret Global Forest Watch analysis about change in tree cover in your area if you are not used to interpreting remote sensing data (a big data analysis and algorithmic governance example)? I therefore return to the hierarchy of technical knowledge and ability to use information (in slide 20) that I covered in the ‘Neogeography and the delusion of democratisation‘ and look at how the opportunities and barriers changed over the years in slide 21.
The last slides show that despite of all the technical advancement, we can have situations such as the water contamination in Flint, Michigan which demonstrate that some of the problems from the 1960s that were supposed to be solved, well monitored, with clear regulations and processes came back because of negligence and lack of appropriate governance. This is not going to be solved with information systems, although citizen science have a role to play to deal with the governmental failure. This whole sorry mess and the re-emergence of air quality as a Western world environmental problem is a topic for another discussion…
The workshop ‘Algorithmic Governance’ was organised as an intensive one day discussion and research needs development. As the organisers Dr John Danaher
and Dr Rónán Kennedy identified:
‘The past decade has seen an explosion in big data analytics and the use of algorithm-based systems to assist, supplement, or replace human decision-making. This is true in private industry and in public governance. It includes, for example, the use of algorithms in healthcare policy and treatment, in identifying potential tax cheats, and in stopping terrorist plotters. Such systems are attractive in light of the increasing complexity and interconnectedness of society; the general ubiquity and efficiency of ‘smart’ technology, sometimes known as the ‘Internet of Things’; and the cutbacks to government services post-2008. This trend towards algorithmic governance poses a number of unique challenges to effective and legitimate public-bureaucratic decision-making. Although many are already concerned about the threat to privacy, there is more at stake in the rise of algorithmic governance than this right alone. Algorithms are step-by-step computer coded instructions for taking some input (e.g. tax return/financial data), processing it, and converting it into an output (e.g. recommendation for audit). When algorithms are used to supplement or replace public decision-making, political values and policies have to be translated into computer code. The coders and designers are given a set of instructions (a project ‘spec’) to guide them in this process, but such project specs are often vague and underspecified. Programmers exercise considerable autonomy when translating these requirements into code.The difficulty is that most programmers are unaware of the values and biases that can feed into this process and fail to consider how those values and biases can manifest themselves in practice, invisibly undermining fundamental rights.This is compounded by the fact that ethics and law are not part of the training of most programmers.Indeed, many view the technology as a value-neutral tool. They consequently ignore the ethical ‘gap’ between policy and code. This workshop will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars and experts to address the ethical gap between policy and code.
The workshop was structured around 3 sessions of short presentations of about 12 minutes, with an immediate discussion, and then a workshop to develop research ideas emerging from the sessions. This very long post are my notes from the meeting. These are my takes, not necessarily those of the presenters. For another summery of the day, check John Danaher’s blog post.
Session 1: Perspective on Algorithmic Governance
Professor Willie Golden (NUI Galway) ‘Algorithmic governance: Old or New Problem?’ focused on an information science perspective. We need to consider the history – an RO Mason paper from 1971 already questioned the balance between the decision-making that should be done by humans, and that part that need to be done by the system. The issue is the level of assumptions that are being integrated into the information system. Today the amount of data that is being collected and the assumption on what it does in the world is a growing one, but we need to remain sceptical at the value of the actionable information. Algorithms needs managers too. Davenport in HBR 2013 pointed that the questions by decision makers before and after the processing are critical to effective use of data analysis systems. In addition, people are very concerned about data – we’re complicit in handing over a lot of data as consumers and the Internet of Things (IoT) will reveal much more. Debra Estrin 2014 at CACM provided a viewpoint – small data, where n = me where she highlighted the importance of health information that the monitoring of personal information can provide baseline on you. However, this information can be handed over to health insurance companies and the question is what control you have over it. Another aspect is Artificial Intelligence – Turing in 1950’s brought the famous ‘Turing test’ to test for AI. In the past 3-4 years, it became much more visible. The difference is that AI learn, which bring the question how you can monitor a thing that learn and change over time get better. AI doesn’t have self-awareness as Davenport 2015 noted in Just How Smart are Smart Machines and arguments that machine can be more accurate than humans in analysing images. We may need to be more proactive than we used to be.
Dr Kalpana Shankar (UCD), ‘Algorithmic Governance – and the Death of Governance?’ focused on digital curation/data sustainability and implication for governance. We invest in data curation as a socio-technical practice, but need to explore what it does and how effective are current practices. What are the implications if we don’t do ‘data labour’ to maintain it, to avoid ‘data tumbleweed. We are selecting data sets and preserving them for the short and long term. There is an assumption that ‘data is there’ and that it doesn’t need special attention. Choices that people make to preserve data sets will influence the patterns of what appear later and directions of research. Downstream, there are all sort of business arrangement to make data available and the preserving of data – the decisions shape disciplines and discourses around it – for example, preserving census data influenced many of the social sciences and direct them towards certain types of questions. Data archives influenced the social science disciplines – e.g. using large data set and dismissing ethnographic and quantitative data. The governance of data institutions need to get into and how that influence that information that is stored and share. What is the role of curating data when data become open is another question. Example for the complexity is provided in a study of a system for ‘match making’ of refugees to mentors which is used by an NGO, when the system is from 2006, and the update of job classification is from 2011, but the organisation that use the system cannot afford updating and there is impacts on those who are influenced by the system.
Professor John Morison (QUB), ‘Algorithmic Governmentality’. From law perspective, there is an issue of techno-optimism. He is interested in e-participation and participation in government. There are issue of open and big data, where we are given a vision of open and accountable government and growth in democratisation – e.g. social media revolution, or opening government through data. We see fantasy of abundance, and there are also new feedback loops – technological solutionism to problems in politics with technical fixes. Simplistic solutions to complex issues. For example, an expectation that in research into cybersecurity, there are expectations of creating code as a scholarly output. Big Data have different creators (from Google to national security bodies) and they don’t have the same goals. There is also issues of technological authoritarianism as a tool of control. Algorithmic governance require to engage in epistemology, ontology or governance. We need to consider the impact of democracy – the AI approach is arguing for the democratisation through N=all argument. Leaving aside the ability to ingest all the data, what is seemed to assume that subjects are not viewed any more as individuals but as aggregate that can be manipulated and act upon. Algorithmic governance, there is a false emancipation by promise of inclusiveness, but instead it is responding to predictions that are created from data analysis. The analysis is arguing to be scientific way to respond to social needs. Ideas of individual agency disappear. Here we can use Foucault analysis of power to understand agency. Finally we also see government without politics – arguing that we make subjects and objects amenable to action. There is not selfness, but just a group prediction. This transcend and obviates many aspects of citizenship.
Niall O’Brolchain (Insight Centre), ‘The Open Government’. There is difference between government and governance. The eGov unit in Galway Insight Centre of Data Analytics act as an Open Data Institute node and part of the Open Government Partnership. OGP involve 66 countries, to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Started in 2011 and involved now 1500 people, with ministerial level involvement. The OGP got set of principles, with eligibility criteria that involve civic society and government in equal terms – the aim is to provide information so it increase civic participation, requires the highest standards of professional integrity throughout administration, and there is a need to increase access to new technologies for openness and accountability. Generally consider that technology benefits outweigh the disadvantages for citizenship. Grand challenges – improving public services, increasing public integrity, public resources, safer communities, corporate accountability. Not surprisingly, corporate accountability is one of the weakest.
Using the Foucault framework, the question is about the potential for resistance that is created because of the power increase. There are cases to discuss about hacktivism and use of technologies. There is an issue of the ability of resisting power – e.g. passing details between companies based on prediction. The issue is not about who use the data and how they control it. Sometime need to use approaches that are being used by illegal actors to hide their tracks to resist it.
A challenge to the workshop is that the area is so wide, and we need to focus on specific aspects – e.g. use of systems in governments, and while technology is changing. Interoperability. There are overlaps between environmental democracy and open data, with many similar actors – and with much more government buy-in from government and officials. There was also technological change that make it easier for government (e.g. Mexico releasing environmental data under OGP).
Sovereignty is also an issue – with loss of it to technology and corporations over the last years, and indeed the corporate accountability is noted in the OGP framework as one that need more attention.
There is also an issue about information that is not allowed to exists, absences and silences are important. There are issues of consent – the network effects prevent options of consent, and therefore society and academics can force businesses to behave socially in a specific way. Keeping of information and attributing it to individuals is the crux of the matter and where governance should come in. You have to communicate over the internet about who you are, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t dictate to corporations what they are allowed to do and how to use it. We can also consider of privacy by design.
Session 2: Algorithmic Governance and the State
Dr Brendan Flynn (NUI Galway), ‘When Big Data Meets Artificial Intelligence will Governance by Algorithm be More or Less Likely to Go to War?’. When looking at autonomous weapons we can learn about general algorithmic governance. Algorithmic decision support systems have a role to play in very narrow scope – to do what the stock market do – identifying very dangerous response quickly and stop them. In terms of politics – many things will continue. One thing that come from military systems is that there are always ‘human in the loop’ – that is sometime the problem. There will be HCI issues with making decisions quickly based on algorithms and things can go very wrong. There are false positive cases as the example of the USS Vincennes that uses DSS to make a decision on shooting down a passenger plane. The decision taking is limited by the decision shaping, which is handed more and more to algorithms. There are issues with the way military practices understand command responsibility in the Navy, which put very high standard from responsibility of failure. There is need to see how to interpret information from black boxes on false positives and false negatives. We can use this extreme example to learn about civic cases. Need to have high standards for officials. If we do visit some version of command responsibility to those who are using algorithms in governance, it is possible to put responsibility not on the user of the algorithm and not only on the creators of the code.
Dr Maria Murphy (Maynooth), ‘Algorithmic Surveillance: True Negatives’. We all know that algorithmic interrogation of data for crime prevention is becoming commonplace and also in companies. We know that decisions can be about life and death. When considering surveillance, there are many issues. Consider the probability of assuming someone to be potential terrorist or extremist. In Human Rights we can use the concept of private life, and algorithmic processing can challenge that. Article 8 of the Human Right Convention is not absolute, and can be changed in specific cases – and the ECHR ask for justifications from governments, to show that they follow the guidelines. Surveillance regulations need to explicitly identify types of people and crimes that are open to observations. You can’t say that everyone is open to surveillance. When there are specific keywords that can be judged, but what about AI and machine learning, where the creator can’t know what will come out? There is also need to show proportionality to prevent social harm. False positives in algorithms – because terrorism are so rare, there is a lot of risk to have a bad impact on the prevention of terrorism or crime. The assumption of more data is better data, we left with a problem of generalised surveillance that is seen as highly problematic. Interestingly the ECHR do see a lot of potential in technologies and their potential use by technologies.
Professor Dag Weise Schartum (University of Oslo), ‘Transformation of Law into Algorithm’. His focus was on how algorithms are created, and thinking about this within government systems. They are the bedrock of our welfare systems – which is the way they appear in law. Algorithms are a form of decision-making: general decisions about what should be regarded, and then making decisions. The translation of decisions to computer code, but the raw material is legal decision-making process and transform them to algorithms. Programmers do have autonomy when translating requirements into code – the Norwegian experience show close work with experts to implement the code. You can think of an ideal transformation model of a system to algorithms, that exist within a domain – service or authority of a government, and done for the purpose of addressing decision-making. The process is qualification of legal sources, and interpretations that are done in natural language, which then turn into specification of rules, and then it turns into a formal language which are then used for programming and modelling it. There are iterations throughout the process, and the system is being tested, go through a process of confirming the specification and then it get into use. It’s too complex to test every aspect of it, but once the specifications are confirmed, it is used for decision-making. In terms of research we need to understand the transformation process in different agency – overall organisation, model of system development, competences, and degree of law-making effects. The challenge is the need to reform of the system: adapting to changes in the political and social change over the time. Need to make the system flexible in the design to allow openness and not rigidness.
Heike Felzman (NUI Galway), ‘The Imputation of Mental Health from Social Media Contributions’ philosophy and psychological background. Algorithms can access different sources – blogs, social media and this personal data are being used to analyse mood analysis, and that can lead to observations about mental health. In 2013, there are examples of identifying of affective disorders, and the research doesn’t consider the ethical implication. Data that is being used in content, individual metadata like time of online activities, length of contributions, typing speed. Also checking network characteristics and biosensing such as voice, facial expressions. Some ethical challenges include: contextual integrity (Nissenbaum 2004/2009) privacy expectations are context specific and not as constant rules. Secondly, lack of vulnerability protection – analysis of mental health breach the rights of people to protect their health. Third, potential negative consequences, with impacts on employment, insurance, etc. Finally, the irrelevance of consent – some studies included consent in the development, but what about applying it in the world. We see no informed consent, no opt-out, no content related vulnerability protections, no duty of care and risk mitigation, there is no feedback and the number of participants number is unlimited. All these are in contrast to practices in Human Subjects Research guidelines.
In terms of surveillance, we should think about self-surveillance in which the citizens are providing the details of surveillance yourself. Surveillance is not only negative – but modern approach are not only for negative reasons. There is hoarding mentality of the military-industrial complex.
The area of command responsibility received attention, with discussion of liability and different ways in which courts are treating military versus civilian responsibility.
Panel 3: Algorithmic Governance in Practice
Professor Burkhard Schafer (Edinburgh), ‘Exhibit A – Algorithms as Evidence in Legal Fact Finding’. The discussion about legal aspects can easily go to 1066 – you can go through a whole history. There are many links to medieval law to today. As a regulatory tool, there is the issue with the rule of proof. Legal scholars don’t focus enough on the importance of evidence and how to understand it. Regulations of technology is not about the law but about the implementation on the ground, for example in the case of data protection legislations. In a recent NESTA meeting, there was a discussion about the implications of Big Data – using personal data is not the only issue. For example, citizen science project that show low exposure to emission, and therefore deciding that it’s relevant to use the location in which the citizens monitored their area as the perfect location for a polluting activity – so harming the person who collected data. This is not a case of data protection strictly. How can citizen can object to ‘computer say no’ syndrome? What are the minimum criteria to challenge such a decision? What are the procedural rules of fairness. Have a meaningful cross examination during such cases is difficult in such cases. Courts sometimes accept and happy to use computer models, and other times reluctant to take them. There are issues about the burden of proof from systems (e.g. to show that ATM was working correctly when a fraud was done). DNA tests are relying on computer modelling, but systems that are proprietary and closed. Many algorithms are hidden for business confidentiality and there are explorations of these issues. One approach is to rely on open source tools. Replication is another way of ensuring the results. Escrow ownership of model by third party is another option. Next, there is a possibility to questioning software, in natural language.
Dr Aisling de Paor (DCU), ‘Algorithmic Governance and Genetic Information’ – there is an issue in law, and massive applications in genetic information. There is rapid technological advancement in many settings, genetic testing, pharma and many other aspects – indications of behavioural traits, disability, and more. There are competing rights and interests. There are rapid advances in this area – use in health care, and the technology become cheaper (already below $1000). Genetic information. In commercial settings use in insurance, valuable for economic and efficiency in medical settings. There is also focus on personalised medicine. A lot of the concerns are about misuse of algorithms. For example, the predictive assumption about impact on behaviour and health. The current state of predictability is limited, especially the environmental impacts on expressions of genes. There is conflicting rights – efficiency and economic benefits but challenge against human rights – e.g. right to privacy . Also right for non-discrimination – making decisions on the basis of probability may be deemed as discriminatory. There are wider societal and public policy concerns – possible creation of genetic underclass and the potential of exacerbate societal stigma about disability, disease and difference. Need to identify gaps between low, policy and code, decide use, commercial interests and the potential abuses.
Anthony Behan (IBM but at a personal capacity), ‘Ad Tech, Big Data and Prediction Markets: The Value of Probability’. Thinking about advertising, it is very useful use case to consider what happen in such governance processes. What happen in 200 milliseconds for advertising, which is the standards on the internet. The process of real-time-bid is becoming standardised. Start from a click – the publisher invokes an API and give information about the interactions from the user based on their cookie and there are various IDs. Supply Side Platform open an auction. on the demand side, there are advertisers that want to push content to people – age group, demographic, day, time and objectives such as click through rates. The Demand Side platform looks at the SSPs. Each SSP is connected to hundreds of Demand Side Platforms (DSPs). Complex relationships exist between these systems. There are probability score or engage in a way that they want to engage, and they offer how much it is worth for them – all in micropayment. The data management platform (DMP) is important to improve the bidding. e.g., if they can get information about users/platform/context at specific times places etc is important to guess how people tend to behave. The economy of the internet on advert is based on this structure. We get abstractions of intent – the more privacy was invaded and understand personality and intent, the less they were interested in a specific person but more in the probability and the aggregate. Viewing people as current identity and current intent, and it’s all about mathematics – there are huge amount of transactions, and the inventory become more valuable. The interactions become more diverse with the Internet of Things. The Internet become a ‘data farm’ – we started with a concept that people are valuable, to view that data is valuable and how we can extract it from people. Advertising goes into the whole commerce element.
There are issues with genetics and eugenics. Eugenics fell out of favour because of science issues, and the new genetics is claiming much more predictive power. In neuroscience there are issues about brain scans, which are not handled which are based on insufficient scientific evidence. There is an issue with discrimination – shouldn’t assume that it’s only negative. Need to think about unjustified discrimination. There are different semantic to the word. There are issues with institutional information infrastructure.
What follows are my personal reflections from the summit and the themes that I feel are emerging in the area of environmental information today.
When considering the recent ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs by the UN Assembly, it is not surprising that they loomed large over the summit – as drivers for environmental information demand for the next 15 years, as focal points for the effort of coordination of information collection and dissemination, but also as an opportunity to make new links between environment and health, or promoting environmental democracy (access to information, participation in decision making, and access to justice). It seems that the SDGs are very much in the front of the mind of the international organisations who are part of the Eye on Earth alliance, although other organisations, companies and researchers who are coming with more technical focus (e.g. Big Data or Remote Sensing) are less aware of them – at least in terms of referring to them in their presentations during the summit.
Beyond the SDGs, two overarching tensions emerged throughout the presentations and discussions – and both are challenging. They are the tensions between abundance and scarcity, and between emotions and rationality. Let’s look at them in turn.
Abundance and scarcity came up again and agin. On the data side, the themes of ‘data revolution’, more satellite information, crowdsourcing from many thousands of weather observers and the creation of more sources of information (e.g. Environmental Democracy Index) are all examples for abundance in the amount of available data and information. At the same time, this was contrasted with the scarcity in the real world (e.g species extinction, health of mangroves), scarcity of actionable knowledge, and scarcity with ecologists with computing skills. Some speakers oscillated between these two ends within few slides or even in the same one. There wasn’t an easy resolution for this tension, and both ends were presented as challenges.
With emotions and scientific rationality, the story was different. Here the conference was packed with examples that we’re (finally!) moving away from a simplistic ‘information deficit model‘ that emphasise scientific rationality as the main way to lead a change in policy or public understanding of environmental change. Throughout the summit presenters emphasised the role of mass media communication, art (including live painting development through the summit by GRID-Arendal team), music, visualisation, and story telling as vital ingredients that make information and knowledge relevant and actionable. Instead of a ‘Two Cultures’ position, Eye on Earth offered a much more harmonious and collaborative linkage between these two ways of thinking and feeling.
Next, and linked to the issue of abundance and scarcity are costs and funding. Many talks demonstrated the value of open data and the need to provide open, free and accessible information if we want to see environmental information used effectively. Moreover, providing the information with the ability of analyse or visualise it over the web was offered as a way to make it more powerful. However, the systems are costly, and although the assessment of the IUCN demonstrated that the investment in environmental datasets is modest compared to other sources (and the same is true for citizen science), there are no sustainable, consistent and appropriate funding mechanisms, yet. Funding infrastructure or networking activities is also challenging, as funders accept the value, but are not willing to fund them in a sustainable way. More generally, there is an issue about the need to fund ecological and environmental studies – it seem that while ‘established science’ is busy with ‘Big Science’ – satellites, Big Data, complex computer modelling – the work of studying ecosystems in an holistic way is left to small group of dedicated researchers and to volunteers. The urgency ad speed of environmental change demand better funding for these areas and activities.
This lead us to the issue of Citizen Science, for which the good news are that it was mentioned throughout the summit, gaining more prominence than 4 years ago in the first summit (were it also received attention). In all plenary sessions, citizen science or corwdsourced geographic information were mentioned at least once, and frequently by several speakers. Example include Hermes project for recording ocean temperatures, Airscapes Singapore for urban air quality monitoring, the Weather Underground of sharing weather information, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team work in Malawi, Kathmandu Living Lab response to the earthquake in Nepal, Arab Youth Climate Movement in Bahrain use of iNaturalist to record ecological observations, Jacky Judas work with volunteers to monitor dragonflies in Wadi Wurayah National Park – and many more. Also the summit outcomes document is clear: “The Summit highlighted the role of citizen science groups in supporting governments to fill data gaps, particularly across the environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development. Citizen Science was a major focus area within the Summit agenda and there was general consensus that reporting against SDGs must include citizen science data. To this end, a global coalition of citizen science groups will be established by the relevant actors and the Eye on Earth Alliance will continue to engage citizen science groups so that new data can be generated in areas where gaps are evident. The importance of citizen engagement in decision-making processes was also highlighted. ”
However, there was ambivalence about it – should it be seen as an instrument, a tool to produce environmental information or as a mean to get wider awareness and engagement by informed citizens? How best to achieve the multiple goals of citizen science: raising awareness, educating, providing skills well beyond the specific topic of the project, and democratising decision making and participation? It seem to still be the case that the integration of citizen science into day to day operations is challenging for many of the international organisations that are involved in the Eye on Earth alliance.
Another area of challenging interactions emerged from the need for wide partnerships between governments, international organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), companies, start-ups, and even ad-hoc crowds that respond to a specific event or an issue which are afforded by digital and social network. There are very different speeds in implementation and delivery between these bodies, and in some cases there are chasms that need to be explored – for example, an undercurrent from some technology startups is that governments are irrelevant and in some forms of thinking that ‘to move fast and break things’ – including existing social contracts and practices – is OK. It was somewhat surprising to hear speakers praising Uber or AirBnB, especially when they came from people who familiar with the need for careful negotiations that take into account wider goals and objectives. I can see the wish to move things faster – but to what risks to we bring by breaking things?
With the discussions about Rio Principle 10and the new developments in Latin America, the Environmental Democracy Index, and the rest, I became more convinced, as I’ve noted in 2011, that we need to start thinking about adding another right to the three that are included in it (access to environmental information, participation in decision-making, and access to justice), and develop a right to produce environmental information that will be taken seriously by the authorities – in other words, a right for citizen science. I was somewhat surprised by the responses when I raised this point during the discussion on Principle 10.
Final panel (source: IISD)
Finally, Eye on Earth was inclusive and collaborative, and it was a pleasure to see how open people were to discuss issues and explore new connections, points of view or new ways of thinking about issues. A special point that raised several positive responses was the gender representation in such high level international conference with a fairly technical focus (see the image of the closing panel). The composition of the speakers in the summit, and the fact that it was possible to have such level of women representation was fantastic to experience (making one of the male-only panels on the last day odd!). It is also an important lesson for many academic conferences – if Eye on Earth can, I cannot see a reason why it is not possible elsewhere.
The afternoon of the last day of Eye on Earth included two plenary sessions, and a discussion (for the morning, see this post). The first plenary focused on Remote sensing and location enabling applications:
Taner Kodanaz (digitalglobe) technology that looking out to the sky now allow us to look at the Earth from 400 miles. Digital Global started 14 years with high-resolution satellite imagery – with billions of users a day that rely on online map. In natural disasters, they provide information that helped responding to it. Some examples of accelerating efforts include forest fire, intentional fires – in Global Forest Watch, Digital Globe data is used to monitor fire and deforestation and address it. The work WRI led Indonesia to deal with forest fire. Also showing the Missing Maps and respond to Kathmandu earthquake and other cases.
Anil Kumar (Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi) Abu Dhabi have done conservation effort for a long time. They have special interesting Houbara, Falcons, Scimitar Horn Oryx and several other species. Abu Dhabi was doing wildlife tracking 20 years ago, use satellite tracking to give insights into migratory routes and stopovers to reach agreement about avoiding their hunting during migration, and they’ve done different patterns of use. They also done Habitat mapping using satellite information with field verification checking that the classification works. Local ability to create classification of different habitats made it possible to share it, digitally and on paper. Allow protecting areas, follow national and international obligations, improve governance and even for emergency response and accurate blue carbon information. They also map local forestation. They have an environmental portal and share the information.
Lian Pin Koh (Conservation Drones) the idea to have be able to monitor nests of Orang-utan which are difficult to monitor from the ground. Because commercial drones are expensive, he was involved in creating a DIY drone in 2012, based on toy plane and programme the route, with simple camera. This enable them to create attention from conservation groups and community scientists. Conservation Drones started as a project and done many places. They have manage to use it for a wide range of projects and shared their experience. The drone is cheap – $700 and allow repeat monitoring, and also identifying illegal logging. Reaching 1-2 cm resolution. Also used in disaster relief in a case of flood from a busted dam that happened during forest monitoring. Attitude to ConservationDrones.org changed rapidly, from ridicule to excitement, and now they are involved in exploring mapping how to quantify biomas – fuel load and control burns. The issues about drones is to create actionable information.
Justin Saunders (eMapsite) – Malawi experience an incredible rainfall, with 200,000 displaced. Rapid response don’t happen until it reach the news – but it didn’t received much attention. They received radar imagery. They used the UN Charter to gain access to the radar imagery that helped to respond to the places that were flooded. They could see the inundation, and also use a flood model to see how realistic was it. Climate change exceeded all the assumptions – including one in 500 years. In Malawi, there isn’t information about the building and community assets. They have worked with OpenStreetMap, carrying out community mapping following the practices of Open Cities and this allow the support of many relief organisations – supporting. Also used the Masdap.mw system that is the Malawi Spatial Data Portal (based on open source) and that allow sharing information. Only one platform help to ensure sharing. Use crowdsourcing before, during and after the event – they are aware that with climate change it will exceed historical records. Use of open source software encourage people to train, and improved the flood modelling. Institutions take new technology, data and methodology rapidly – especially when it was free and not require investment. Visualisation helped action.
Steven Ramage (What3Words) – there are 135 countries that don’t have addressing information, and the Universal Postal Union, this is very valuable. There are four billion people without location reference. Allow creating a digital location reference in 3 words in places that are informal and don’t have addressing system. There are 860,000 people in informal settlements – how do we communicate the location. Instead of lat/long but when you need to communicate between people, creating 3 words key to the place. The system is small – 10MB and can work without connectivity, and there is research that demonstrate that words are easier to remember then numbers. Long words are to less populated area and there is new dictionary for each language, enabling to integrate into indigenous languages. Started to be used by esri, nestoria, UN, Safe Software, Mapillary, GoCarShare. Used in the Nepal earthquake, in delivery of medicine in informal settlement, UNOCHA suggest using what3words.
The final set of talks was titled Feet in the field chaired by Stuart Parerson (Conservation Leadership Programme) exploring volunteering programmes. He noted that the questions for the session were: How do we build capacity to collect primary data? How do we make people future conservation leaders? How do we communicate with policy makers? The Feet in the Field is aimed to support future conservation leaders. They have 6 key stages process of identifying and promoting young leaders. There i a need of investment and attention to maintain diversity.
David Kuria (KENVO) Kijabe Environment volunteers – explore conservation and livelihood – founded in 1994 in Kikuyu Escarpment Forest. They do education but also community empowerment. They observed forest degradation – illegal logging, over grazing and also breakdown of social systems. Knowledge and skills that gained locally and through NGOs, and then use that to mobilise the community, lobbying, but also patrolling and monitoring. They have done different studies – poaching, bird surveys, forest monitoring, as well as climate change and carbon trading. The data is used to action – e.g. encouraging ecotourism, or capacity building of many farmers. Data is important for decision makers and a strong tool for conservation awareness – and fosters support. But more important is the human side – good leadership, motivation and engagement, respecting existing systems, owned by stakeholders, working with marginalised groups. Many challenges: technical capacity, resources, high turn over of government staff, limited ability in volunteering, vast area and more.
Alberto Campos (Aquasis in Brazil) – 21 years preventing extinction in Brazil – based in Fortaleza, and they look after highly endangered marine mammals and birds. The have emergency plan and action plan – to do that they need long term plan. The problem is that they need long team funding, conservation & fieldwork training – and they been receiving support from the CLP). Systems that they developed been adopted by the government. Communicating these results is shifting focus for conservation of species to the resources they help to conserve. Biodiversity conservation is opening other resource – Manakin is becoming indicator to clean and accessible water – and that help to recognise them
Ayesha Yousef Al Blooshi (Marine Biodiversity at EAAD) – primary producers of environmental data, EAD produce data, then pass it to environmental management sector, that is use by government and then share it with the world. They been monitoring corals undersea and take photo transects that are analysed – it’s a very manual process that take a lot of time. They think about using CoralNet that use machine learning to recognised species. The sea grass is supporting the population of Dugongs, and monitor them from the air. They also track them and use drone technology to monitor dolphins. They have a collector app that allow them to record different sightings which speed up and simplify data collection. They also gather traditional knowledge from fishermen – also looking at the past and capture wealth of data.
Nicolas Heard – funds from the Mohamed bin Zayed conservation fund. They like people who are passionate about species. They can show how the small grant can be used to further the cause of their species. The passion need to be matched with science – also important to pass on enthusiasm to local communities, but that is not enough. Need data, information, knowledge, skills and collaboration. They provide small grants for survey and monitoring and encourage contribution of data to other purposes. Help support outreach, prioritising conservation action, help in efficiency
Jacky Judas (Wadi Wuraya National Park) in the eastern coast of the UAE. The park was created in 2009 and made into RAMSAR site in 2010, aiming to develop management plan. The water research programme are education, awareness and scientific data. The participants learn about fresh water ecosystems and the challenges, and also learn how to monitor the ecosystem. 10-15 volunteers through EarthWatch, research activities include Toad monitoring – field data collection, lab experiment, data input. Also monitoring dragonflies (hot spot for them in the area) and discovered a species that was never spotted in the UAE. Working with volunteers allow monitoring over the season, the use iNaturalist and help to GBIF
Jean-Christophe Vié (IUCN) have tradition of looking at primary data collection. Behind each assessment in the 70,000 species in the Red List, there is at least on person working on the ground. The created the habitat conservation programme allow them to support primary data collection. Species are good way to tell stories. Projects such as Save our Species help in understanding distribution of species and then identify key areas to provide support for conservation. They ask to have some monitoring information to understand what is the impact of investment.
Summary of the session: We need capacity of research; data must lead to action; show how species help to protect other resources; combine traditional and scientific knowledge; and realise that small funding can go long way with volunteers.
Once that part was completed, we moved to the summary of the summit.
H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Jacqueline McGlade, Barbara Ryan, Janet Ranganathan and Thomas Brooks . Nima Abu-Wardeh, who moderated the whole summit, set questions to the panel: How do you all fit together? Razan: we find ways to fit together – regions are represented, there are many positive things happen in the Arab region and share them. Barbara: no one organisation can deal with environmental problem alone, the power is coming together from public, private and civil society – all need to work together, and there are challenges of changing our internal systems, bridge the transition from data to wisdom, we need to do that. Thomas: IUCN fit in to EoE through the power of the network of public bodies, 1000 civil society members, and more than 10000 experts, Janet: WRI – trying to scale things through counting and present it in an engaging way. Jacquie – what is important is to representing the UN family making poor and vulnerable heard. To address environmental problems, we need the Eye on Earth alliance, this is the way to reach out across the world. What are the tools and mechanisms that people need – how ‘how am I going to do it?’ is going to happen. Jacquie: provides a web intelligence information from UNEP Live, we can see how clusters of knowledge are being built up. Things are linked to other places across the world and letting citizens influence the agenda. Razan: need to synchronise elevator – one with policy makers that need the data and another one with scientists who are producing the data. We need to synchronicity that change in each region according to need. People can completely bypass the system in many ways, but what happen if policy makers take too much time, and the needs are urgent – what will happen after the event? Jacquie: we are suggested activities that are dealing with foundational – global network or networks, environmental education, access for all and then link to thematic areas – biodiversity, disaster management, community sustainability and resilience, oceans and blue carbon, and water security. Barbara: the organisations that we are involved in – we need to think how our activities that already exist with identifying the themes. Thomas: IUCN can contribute the knowledge products to the range of Eye on Earth products, and advocate for mechanisms to develop capacity to generate data. Janet: contributing data platforms – resource watch, forest watch and on access for all. the Environment Democracy Index came out of EoE.
How do we do things better? there is much ground to cover and stimulating change. Barbara: for partnerships to work, it got to align with our own vision. The partnership let us do that. Advocacy for broad open data policies – we need to get on with it. Jacquie: we need to bring Principle 10 to the UN. We need to open up governmental debate, we grab participation by the neck and make it central to what we do. We have big environmental assembly. We need data that inform. Barbara: the capabilities of citizen science and citizen sensing was front and centre and that is central.
We need to talk with the media and behaviour change, broadening our horizons.
Razan – we converge and collaborate. We came from all regions of the world and walks of life. Some are affiliated with government, research, start up, companies, ecologists and environmentalists. Many here were here in 2011. Thanking for signaling the value in the eye on earth network. Developing a strong sense of community, aiming to solve major problems of the planet. We see sense of purpose in assisting the monitoring and progress towards the SDGs. We have 5 organisations that commit to be founding members of the organisations: AGEDI, IUCN, WRI, UNEP and GEO. They commit to develop assist and guide global community to achieve the SDGs. Eye on Earth can provide collective voice – it is informal alliance, and agreeing to convene Eye on Earth again.
Building on the themes of Data Demand (on the first day of the summit) and Data Supply (on the second day), the last day of the Eye on Earth Summit explored the enabling conditions that link producers and users of data.
Before the first plenary, the World Resource Institute (WRI) launched The Environmental Democracy Index (EDI). Lalanth de Silva noted that the index rank countries according to Principle 10 pillars: access to environmental information, participation in decision making, and access to justice. The index was sent to governments since its Beta version release in May. The responses led to adjustment scores. 70 countries are included, and 30 responded, including comments from civil society. The index was supported by 140 lawyers from across the world. Jesse Worker (WRI) provided the background The Access Initiative started in 1999 – network of over 200 civil society organisation in over 50 countries that are there to support Principle 10 pillars. The focus of environmental democracy are information, participation and justice. There have been progress since 1992 nad there are other regulations, such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). At the same time, laws are weak or absent in many countries. Practice also lags behind and there is no consistent measurement of progress of laws. The EDI is based on 75 legal indicators, following the Bali guidelines, with 24 supplemental practice (implementation) indicators. They started with 70 countries with 140 lawyers advising. Each country had two – one assessing, and one reviewing. On the website, each country got a short, accessible introduction and the country response is also included on the page. It provided civil society information about government intention. There is also the ability to rank countries. The indicators are based on established framework (Bali guidelines) with limited subjectivity on how they are evaluated, making it easily accessible – and engage governments and stakeholders. Also help civil society to learn about what other achieved. The top countries are Lithuania, Latvia, US, South Africa. It is noted that the signatories to the Aarhus convention, which is binding convention, are doing better. Countries with good laws tend to have better practices, access to information was ahead of public participation. 19 countries responded and they have done score changes. They aim to update it every 2 years, and reach global coverage by 2019. They also aim for Aarhus Convention specific indicators and expend the assessment of implementation.
For Jordan, (Seif Hijazi) commented that the EDI results were below expectation – they expected that the score will be higher, based on their perception of the legal system in their country. The score of Jordan scored 63 out of 70. Some examples: recently enacted law to access and request information from the government, as there are limitation – e.g. the applicant need to demonstrate direct interest which is difficult in law. In public participation, the EIA regulations require public participation – but no legal requirement to consider the comments from the public. Government officials agreed with the scores – and they want to take corrective measures to improve the situation. Jordan is one of the fewer countries in the region to have access to information law.
For Jamaica (Danielle Andrade), the score was especially law on participation, especially environmental impact assessment, policy and law making. The EDI provider a new impetus for working on legislations for public participation – and the government dusted off drafts from 2011 and work on implementations. The assessment of the EDI are used for legal reforms. There is a process of extending Principle 10 in South America and Carribean and the EDI form the position of the country in such negotiations. The score on access to justice the score midway, with lacking support for groups and individuals to fund their representation in court.
Generally, Participation is the pillar that lags behind. Even in democracy there aren’t enough public spaces to engage with government. Comments from Italy, Jordan, Italy and Lebanon about the importance of participation and the need for active civil society to promote it. Jesse – they worked with the TAI network members, because of limited resources, and most European countries are members in Aarhus to develop indicators specific to this system. Participation laws and practice – people need timely information to be informed citizens. People have constraint on their time, and they need timely information in the public domain and know that their comments will be taken into account – you need to know that your comments will be taken seriously. There are gaps between proactive information disclosure and what is done in practice. Requirement to provide information on facilities that have big impact on the environment. Assessing public participation is very difficult. There are also laws that limit the scope of civil society, so it is an ongoing issue that require monitoring.
The first plenary of the day developed the theme of the day Creating the enabling environment – getting attention, remembering and acting is important. Opening with Jim Toomey – as a cartoonist, committed to the ocean and worked with UNEP on communication of ocean related issues. There is also revolution in the media industry in terms of sharing it and accessing it, and it is under similar transitions to the data . With his comics, he mixes entertainment with message (e.g. cartoon that is about sustainable sea food). Media is very powerful – e.g. celebrities on the web compared to information on climate change (see pie chart in the slide!). The ability to create content and because it is without much commercial interest, it allows new forms of producing and sharing information. Issues of climate change, or ocean acidification are critical, but the media is not covering it – so do become your own media campaign. He looked at issues with UNEP, including Blue Carbon, Climate Change, Sea Level Rise and more.
The plenary, which included a keynote and short statements, included Inger Andersen (IUCN) chair, with Enrico Giovannini (economist and statistician University of Rome); Carmelle Terborgh (Esri); Patricia Zurita (Bird Life international)
Inger – we stand at a crossroad, and we need to make them with a sense of understanding of the choices that we make. We are on unsustainable path, increased inequalities, stresses on the environment, biodiversity loss etc. We see extinction of species 1000 times the natural rate – we need dramatic change in policy direction and action. We are making choices – the SDGs are not just a list of goals – they are about choosing a different path. Next Paris COP21 will need to demonstrate that we can get on the path for 2 degrees and action towards it. We need good data to make good decisions – we have drops of information from seas of data. The enabling conditions are not there to link data into environmental information that is relevant. The conditions that are needed: financing – IUCN Red Lists and other knowledge products that are needed for many decision-making – the datasets are very cost-effective, with amazing body of volunteers with 300 volunteering years. We don’t see the investment that come with it. The data that go to other system – the global observatory on climate is funded in billions. People are happy to get environmental information for free, but this is not matched with investment. Open data is interesting, but also raise issue for professional scientists of credit, plagiarism etc. There are also the technologies and the use of the data from remote sensing (e.g. WRI Global Forest Watch). In some way, conservation is lagging behind the attention to climate change. How we can we also improve ocean monitoring – we need them to be able to make decisions. Better tools matter also to enable implementation, environmental impact assessment. Lets make tools actionable. Capacity building is key, with different funds – need ‘feet on the ground’ to make conservation possible. We also need the resources to make knowledge available and they get direct benefits from these activities. The conservation movement is a greying movement – how are we going to fire up the new generation, with love of nature? How to inspire children to be part of this army for good.
Enrico – We want to generate information and science to anticipate what people will experience. Enabling conditions are about the overall environment to reach the SDGs goal. A thought experiment is: What a brand new country want to reach the goals? They will have to put SDG in the constitution, and should have assessment of any piece of legislation to check that it fit the SDG. Enabling conditions go beyond financial, technical or statistical conditions. A UN report on the data revolution for sustainable development influenced the statistical monitoring of SDG. We are not moving at an appropriate speed – in the way UN system react, we won’t have baseline until 2019. We need these baseline faster. There is waste of money in international organisations – e.g. in visualisation system or data repositories and lack of sharing data. We need a new social contract with the private sector and companies to get information that is needed for sustainable development data. Speed is required, and we need to avoid waste and share resources.
Carmelle – need to have integrative framework, GIS is a way of bringing issues together. Making it possible to integrate issues that lead to action. GIS is essential to man y decision making, and need to think about networked GIS as a way to allow geographic understanding across organisation. Need to have capacity for people to be able to access information, but also make it possible to access and use open data. Should use maps to tell stories – illustrate key issues. Empowering people through apps and devices is a way to make information useful in context. GIS and geospatial technologies are needed as part of an enabling condition.
Patricia – Bird Life International – 150 organisation about nature, with birds as ambassadors. The issue is how they make impact on the ground. They created IBAs – with huge volunteer effort and multi-million dollars investment. The try to turn information into stories, such as the Marine IBA e-atlas to help protect and conserve areas across the globe. Taking action is about empowering local people, through technology – not just information gatherers, but being able to interpret data and use it for local decision-making. There is need for adequate resources – not only to collect it but also to monitor and continue to invest in it over time, how to ensure that we got the funding to upgrade technology as much as the private sector? How can it be done that without capitalising on intellectual property ? We can have hybrid access models to ensure income. We need to have local to global approach. We need to maintain to continue and maintain the science team so there is the robust understanding of what was collected. We need to turn sources like the Global Environmental Outlook into digestible pills.
Following the panel, the session Principle 10 of Rio Declaration– for better environmental governance and access for all in different regions explored “Efficiency and accountability of policy development can be further enhanced through a more open access to environmental information and data as well as better conditions for public participation in environmental decision-making thus aiming for environmental governance improvement.
Major progress was achieved in this regards on the regional level since Rio Conference and especially after Rio+20 Conference on Principle 10 (access to information and public participation on environmental matters) promotion and implementation. Most recent development marks the Latin American and Caribbean regions Principle 10 process where 20 countries launched few months ago the negotiation of Principle 10 regional instrument.”
Alexander Juras (leading on access for all special initiative) chaired. He takes journey of principle 10 in different places. Start with a short video on principle 10 that is used to promote the Latin America process
Principle 10 hold government to account, and some government don’t like it – in many regions of the world, it’s an ongoing struggle to make it
Carlos De Meguel (UN ECLAC) – process in the region of Latin America and Caribbean – the government should do their job to enable people to participate. It’s connect human rights, environment and access rights. In Rio+20 20 countries in the region decided to develop an initiative around Principle 10, with a link to different goals in the SDG. Principle 16 ad 17 are explicitly connected to Principle 10. There is progress, but challenges: lack of regulations, and many people without access to information due to economic, social, and political reasons. Sometime the information itself is lacking – need alternative ways of resolving conflicts. The need for regional agreement is to maintain compliance, to allow collaboration and increase commitments.The new agreement can potentially impact 500 million people. The process evolved from 2012 to 2014, with final negotiation starting now. There are many resolutions, also in intergovernmental forums – a lot of political backing. Structure of the document include the 3 pillars and other aspects – with reference to Bali guidelines and other developments since Principle 10. There is also wide public consultation on the document. Aim to reach it by 2016.
Danielle Andrade (lawyer for Jamaica/ TAI) and Andrea Sanhueza (founder of TAI)- Danielle opened, discussing the impact of access that influenced people’s life. The Caribbean are not only a holiday spot, for example she told the story of state-owned sewage plant that was malfunctioning since the 1970s, but continue to receive effluent and created local problems. Only with an NGOs they manage to bring court action about neglecting the site, and use freedom of information to demonstrate that people were charged to pay for fixing the plants. That led to fixing the sewage plant. Andrea talked about examples from Ecuador – in 2004, in Tumbaco, some people had headaches and skin condition. They done tests and suffer from arsenic poisoning. They water system was managed by the municipality and they set out public group for water without arsenic, and they used attention in the media and investigation of the case by the government. The analysis included a range of tests, showing the impact of blood contamination that came from an external lab in Canada. The municipal company argued that they can’t deal with the pipes, but changed the source of water and that helped in solving the situation.
Tsvetelina Filipova (REC for Central and Eastern Europe) – Building Bridges between regions http://building-bridges.rec.org/ – Aarhus change behaviour of government and people who understood that they have a right – that’s because it was legally binding. The process was not ideal, and lots of countries had difficulties – many countries were ready, but even the countries that thought that they are good in Principle 10 legislations, failed many time. The project is about inter-regional cooperation and helped in sharing the experience from Aarhus to Latin America. Some benefits: supporting the negotiation process and have experience on how to deal with issues that come up. There is also experience and interregional experience on how to implement, and also empowering stakeholders. In all these initiatives it is people who are pushing the process forward. The process require funding so it is inclusive enough. The implementation of the bridges was through training and live on-line exchange seminars – sharing good practice, draw recommendations on running the process efficiently. The benefits: designing, drafting, negotiating, implementation and interpreting. Some of the people are involved in working on these issues since 1996.
Alexander Juras – The Aarhus also helped in instilling democratic values in many countries that use to be part of the Soviet union.
Jeremy Wates (European Environmental Bureau, past secretary of Aarhus) – development of Principle 10 in the Middle East and north Africa region. It is not enough to have environmental information system, if you don’t provide the legal rights – don’t treat it as a marginal aspect to Eye on Earth framework, it need to be central processes. The second point is that Aarhus convention is not being talked about enough, and taken for granted, not that it all gone right and there are real challenges to fit within it – even today the EU is struggling to comply. Aarhus apply to many countries with long and shorter experiences of democracy. The building bridges is about a forum for dialogue – lots of mistake that can be learnt from. The next region to open this dialogue in is the MENA region, but the political situation in the region lead to select few countries to start. Starting with Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and UAE, with the aim to implement Bali guidelines better. Some of them been aware of the Aarhus process. The hope is to get enhanced environmental performances, and participatory government. They see 4 main actions in the process: raising awareness, carry out gap analysis to see what is already in place and what information already available. Then encourage government and civil society in Aarhus convention process and strengthen civil society organisations and network. That is aimed over 2 years projects. The issue is to get partnerships going
Stephen Stec (Central European University, author of the Bali guidelines and Aarhus implementation guide). covered Bali Guidelines – an effective tool for implementing Rio Principle 10 at the national level. The standards for the rest of the world are the Bali guidelines from 2010. It’s global instrument for Principle 10, and base on national experience and the international experience from Aarhus. He covered the Bali guidelines – they are voluntary and request driven, to help filling gaps in national legislations. There are 26 guidelines – most in access to justice, and the early one are about access to information. In the Access of All special initiative of EoE included several outcomes – the environmental democracy index, then UNITAR national profiles that is part of the Environmental Governance Programme – national assessment and tailored capacity building. UNEP also run Regional Workshops to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue on Rio Principle 10 and the guidelines and the implementation guide on Bali guidelines that was launch on the first day.
Discussion: moving beyond Principle 10 and starting to think about how we support public production of environmental information? This is a growing area, and the information completely changed. Seeing citizen science that it will take care of itself – say the chemical release inventory, worth putting the effort in the current extension of principle 10 into more areas. For less developed IT countries for further promotion of right, improving active citizenship can be done through citizen science. Public Production of information – if you want to provide data in non-traditional data is the issue of recognition and allowing it to be used in decision making processes. Daniella give an example of community data collection in a mining case to complete the data gap. In the current Principle 10 , require certain standards – and it might find its way into agreement
A question from Cameroon about the legal framework for access to justice in terms of cost, expertise and when the bridge will reach Africa? the experience is that you need government that is committed to the idea of regional convention, which also have leadership in transparency, stability, open etc. That work in the LAC area. The limitation on building bridge are the costs of extending projects.
From Mauritius – for small island states – Rest of the World region. Working with UNEP is very complicated and as new network how they can work together when they have limited ability.